On last night's American Idol elimination show, Ryan Seacrest announced the mentors for this season. And judging from some message board posts I've perused, not all viewers are that psyched about the news.
Well, I for one am excited about most of this year's mentors. Read on and I'll tell you why!
Mariah Carey - Ooh boy, this one's going to be interesting. It's a well-documented fact that one of the worst strategic moves an Idol finalist can make is to attempt to sing a Mimi song, because very few people (other than dog-whistle-manufacturers) can hit the positively stratospheric octaves that Mariah can sing in her sleep. I shudder to think of what might happen if Kristy Lee Cook gets stuck with "Vision Of Love," if she manages to stick around for Mariah Night. But regardless of whether or not Mariah will be able to successful coach the contestants vocally, there's one way in which she will no doubt be immeasurably helpful: teaching them how to triumph over adversity. Seriously, this woman's been through the ringer so many times she probably bathes in Woolite, yet she always emerges so fresh and so clean. Any finalist who eventually gets eliminated can learn a lot from this comeback queen: She's proof that any setback, even one of Glitter-sized proportions, can be overcome with pure talent. (By the way, check out this excellent essay my esteemed co-blogger Billy Johnson Jr. wrote about Mariah's almost cockroach-like tenacity. Maybe it should be required reading for all Idol finalists!)
Neil Diamond - Say what you will about Neil. But he is DA MAN. First of all, this Songwriters Hall Of Fame inductee has penned some of the finest, most time-tested pop hits ever, many of which have been famously covered, like "I'm A Believer" by the Monkees, "Red Red Wine" by UB40, "Solitary Man" by both Johnny Cash and HiM, and "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" as popularized by Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction. (Wow, talk about "song selection"!) Second, in 2005 Neil made a completely critically acclaimed comeback with 12 Songs, a Rick Rubin-produced tour de force that did for Neil's career what the Rick Rubin-masterminded American album series did for Johnny Cash in the '90s. (It featured instrumentation from a couple of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, plus the final performance by late Beatles sideman Billy Preston. That's pretty frickin' cool, if you ask me.) Anyway, to quote a line from the 1991 film What About Bob?, "There are two types of people in the world: those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't." If the Idol finalists know what's good for 'em, they'll be in the former category. These diamonds-in-the-rough could learn a great deal from Sir Diamond.
Dolly Parton - Alesha Stelzl, the squeaky-voiced blonde from earlier this season who sounded so much like Dolly that Simon made her learn "Islands In The Stream" and then re-audition, will sadly never get a chance to be mentored by Miss Parton. But those who do get to meet this Opry icon should feel very, very honored. They need to become bosom buddies with Dolly (heh heh) and spongily soak up as much knowledge as they can from this country goddess. Come on, how many other musical stars have their very own THEME PARK? That puts Dolly in a class all by herself. She's a wise, worldly woman, as her philosophical video below proves. I just wish Danny Noriega had gotten the opportunity to work with Dolly. If he had, there would've been a whole lotta fierceness in the theater that evening!
Andrew Lloyd Weber - OK, this is the mentor I'm a little nervous about. Sure, I enjoyed watching ALW on Grease: You're The One That I Want, but that show was specifically designed to find a Broadway star. Conversely, on American Idol one of the biggest insults a singer can receive is "you'd be good on Broadway." (Ouch.) Really, the horrifying prospect of rockers like Michael Johns and David Cook or shy, self-effacing finalists like Brooke White and Jason Castro tackling "Memory" from Cats or "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina " from Evita makes my very insides ache. (Although the rockers might do all right with a Jesus Christ Superstar number, actually). Still, working with the king of musical theater may help a few of this year's more awkward contestants with their stage skills. And if things don't pan out for them on Idol, a Broadway career is a pretty good plan B, really. Just ask Fantasia, Clay Aiken, or Frenchie Davis!